Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

 In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov's experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 27th, 2018
by Bonnier Publishing Australia

I’ve seen this book everywhere, both on and offline, and finally caved one day at Costco treating myself. I was expecting an emotional, heart-wrenching story. Just by having Auschwitz in the title implies that, right!?

The story of Lale, how he came to be a tattooist is told along with the trials and tribulations he faced. Based on a true story the author interviewed him herself and tells his story. That’s the thing I picked up on right away, the story was told with little showing. Now don’t get me wrong, I still felt some of the emotion - it’s Auschwitz after all. But I would have loved more showing. To feel the emotional connection between Lale and Gita and as a reader, I didn’t feel their bond.

To me, this could have been a great story but I found it read more like non-fiction. I was expecting a story with the depth of both character and setting.  Maybe all the hype surrounding The Tattooist elevated my expectation level.  But it's still 3 stars from me for the educational lesson.

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